Every American child can benefit from exploring our nation's capital. Its family appeal goes beyond the obvious governmental and historic attractions. Because zoning prohibits skyscrapers (buildings are kept below a certain height so that the Capitol dome is visible from many vantage points), the city has a relaxed, easy feel -- it's a major city with an almost small-town ambience. It's easily navigable, with many pedestrian-friendly areas -- particularly the expansive Mall, where many of the famous monuments and major museums are concentrated -- and a good public transit system.
High tourist season is summer when kids are out of school, but the city also gets crowded at cherry blossom time in May and during school holidays (when many student groups visit). Avoid the mob scene by planning a pre-Memorial Day or post-Labor Day visit. That said, there's no one season when Washington isn't a popular destination, and weekends are naturally the most packed.
Though Washington is technically in the South, it's not as sizzling as, say, south Florida. But summers are toasty, and the city is famous (or infamous?) for its often oppressive humidity in summer, when average temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. Fall cools off nicely, with temperatures in the 70s early in the season and in the 50s closer to winter. Winters are winter-coat-cold but with a lower chance of blizzard conditions than in northern climes. Springtime is lovely, in the 60s and 70s. Get more weather info.
Three airports serve the city. Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) both have international and domestic flights. Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) is mostly domestic, and is the closest to the heart of the city. Arriving in D.C. by train can be fun; Amtrak serves the city, and you get the treat of arriving at the gorgeous and historic Union Station. You can also come by bus.
If you're arriving by car, congratulations on even getting here. Seriously, Washington traffic can be brutal and parking tricky, so consider parking your vehicle for the duration of your stay (aside from trips outside the city). The Metrorail ("the Metro") is comprehensive, clean, and easy to use. Day passes run about $6.50. The Metrobus runs all over the city; you'll need exact change to board or you can buy tokens in advance (a one-day pass is $3) at the Metro Center subway station. Taxis are also a plentiful option.
It's a good bet that you'll want to spend time exploring monuments and memorials, and checking out the huge range of excellent museums in Washington. Most museums are under the umbrella of the wonderful Smithsonian; contact the Smithsonian Information Center for tips and free information on mapping out your visit. Dial-A-Museum at (202) 357-2020 is a helpful recording, as is Dial-a-Park (202) 619-7275. For in-depth coverage of Georgetown, see our local Georgetown travel feature. For all things Washington, go to the official website for the D.C. Convention and Visitor's Association.
The greatest deal in Washington, D.C., hands down? Nearly all major tourist attractions are free. Well, free in the sense that your taxes have already paid the bill for the major monuments and museums. That's highly kid-friendly; when you have been spared a hefty admissions price, who cares that Junior only wants to see one dinosaur at the Natural History Museum before heading off to see one airplane at the Air and Space Museum? Hop from spot to spot at your heart's (and wallet's) content.